It is refreshing to see a country, formerly derided and disrespected, becoming Great again.
Thanks, Mr Trump, all of North Korea is in your debt!
However, it is equally dispiriting to see a murderous kleptocrat score easy wins over the gullible and foolish leader of a democracy. It was vital for Trump to "take the first trick". But he did not even gain one. In this round, Kim scooped the pot.
Formerly a pariah, NK Leader Kim Jong Un has engaged in diplomacy with (allegedly) the Most Powerful Man in the World, and (at least , according to himself) the Best Deal-maker in the World. Kim scored significant victories on every point. Several issues that were allegedly critical were dropped in the final communique.
- Holding the meeting was a major concession to Kim in the first place. His appearance as a international celebrity in Singapore and photos with the President of the United States, against a backdrop with the flags of both countries side-by-side, is a massive propaganda victory seen on every news bulletin in every country in the world.
- Secretary of State Pompeo sought "verifable, irreversible and complete denuclearisation" of North Korea the day before the talks. The final communique dropped the three adjectives.
- Denuclearisation was applied to "the Korean peninsula", committing the US to a quid pro quo, something that will worry the Japanese and South Koreans.
- Analysts had recommended the US seek a "down payment" on denuclearisation to gain assurances of Kim's intentions, such as some missiles scrapped straightaway. We do not know if it was even suggested.
- Outside the talks, Trump announced that the military exercises with South Korea would be discontinued. These exercises infuriated North Korea, and their ending is a major concession by Trump - again, apparently, without any reciprocation by Kim. It seems South Korea had not been told about this.
- Human rights were never discussed, but Trump said he intended to invite the murderous tyrant Kim to the United States, and to the White House. Again, a concession with no reciprocation.
- The President began by declaring how "honoured" he was to meet a blood-stained tyrant. This was excessively effusive and undignified for the leader of a country that respects the rule of law (doesn't it?).
- Trump did state the sanctions regime would stay in place, but statements today by Chinese officials suggest that the Chinese will not now apply sanctions stringently. Russia probably never did. Kim' regime is safe, his nuclear weapons are in place, and he can continue laboratory testing.
- Apparently, Trump made a big play about American investment in North Korea. This is delusional. China will never allow America to assume any major influence in North Korea. Kim will be sensible enough to integrate his economy more closely with China and Russia, who are neighbours, and whose authoritarian systems are just milder versions of his own.
Trump came straight to Singapore from a disastrous and acrimonious meeting with his closest allies. He pointedly did not want to meet them, and did not leave Quebec with their praise and encouragement. This Singapore meeting failed to revive any confidence that the President really knows how to conduct international diplomacy, or if his anti-diplomatic disruptiveness can bear fruit.
Let's look on the bright side - a year ago, these two sides were threatening war. No doubt, talks will continue, hopefully until at least Trump leaves office. It is entirely probable that North Korea will still have nuclear weapons at that time. Let us hope Trump never realises the extent of his folly - in may even be folly in a good cause, if it averts war.